Published: Tue, April 17, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Chemical weapons investigation team arrives in Damascus - OPCW

Chemical weapons investigation team arrives in Damascus - OPCW

The mission of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to probe the use of chemical weapons in Syria's Douma stalled on Monday amid United States accusations against Russian Federation that it meddled with the site of the attack.

Russian Federation is denying any attempt to prevent access or scrub the site and is instead blaming the delay on the US led airstrikes.

Referring to economic sanctions, it said that "the European Union will continue to consider further restrictive measures against Syria as long as the repression continues".

Relief organizations say dozens of men, women and children were killed. Footage of young victims foaming at the mouth and weeping in agony helped to thrust Syria´s civil war - in which half a million people have been killed in the past seven years - to the forefront of world concern again.

The four nations confronted each other intense emergency talks at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague as inspectors prepare for a hard and risky mission.

The OPCW team has so far held meetings with Syrian officials but is not believed to have started field work in Douma, where holdout rebels surrendered their weapons and agreed to leave after the alleged attack.

The OPCW chief, Ahmet Uzumcu, told the meeting his inspectors had failed to gain access to the site.

"It is our understanding the Russians may have visited the attack site", USA ambassador Ken Ward said.


Russia's foreign minister has claimed a suspected chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma last weekend was fabricated with the help of an unspecified foreign intelligence agency.

Faisal Mekdad, Syria's deputy foreign minister, said on Monday that government officials have met with the delegation, which has been in Damascus for three days, a number of times to discuss cooperation.

Britain's delegation to the OPCW accused Russian Federation and the Assad regime of stopping inspectors from reaching Douma.

The limited scope of the strikes and the fact that Damascus had time to remove key assets thanks to prior warning given by the West to Syria regime ally Russian Federation, also drew sceptical comments from analysts.

An OPCW fact-finding team is also in Syria to probe the alleged attack on Douma in which 40 people died.

"We called for an objective investigation. Therefore, allegations of this towards Russian Federation are groundless", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

The OPCW received the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to eliminate chemical weapons in 2013 as it pressed a campaign that resulted the following year in the destruction of Syria's declared stockpiles.

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